George Ingram was visibly affected as he took the proffered hand of Reuben Harris, and inquired about his health and the whereabouts and welfare of his family. Harris implored young Ingram to tell him all about the strike, its latest phases, and what the municipal authorities were doing for the protection of his property. George Ingram gave him a brief history of the troubles up to the time of his leaving Harrisville. He told how the manager aided by the company’s general counsel, Mr. Webster, had used every possible argument with the workingmen’s committee; that a statement even had been submitted, showing that very small or practically no profits had resulted from recent contracts, which were now being completed by the company. The effort to arrive at a satisfactory adjustment with the employees was thus far absolutely fruitless. Since daylight the four thousand men had been parading the streets with music and clubs, forcing employees of other establishments to quit work, and threatening to destroy the steel plant.
The color in Colonel Harris’s face came and went as he listened, showing a white heat of indignation. Ingram sat facing his employer, watching the emotions of a strong man, and not then daring to offer any suggestion, for he felt strongly in behalf of the employees, who always looked upon him as their friend.
Colonel Harris was a man of powerful build, wide forehead, overhanging brows, broad chest and shoulders, short thick neck, and strong arms developed at the anvil. His superintendent from boyhood had studied him, but never before had he seen the lion in his employer so aroused.
Arriving at Harrisville the wealthy iron-master, accompanied by his superintendent, stepped into his own private carriage, and immediately drove to the general offices of the Harrisville Iron & Steel Co. The directors of the company were in special session to devise means of protecting their threatened property and of crushing the strike.
B.C. Wilson, the manager, rose to greet Colonel Harris, who shook hands with him and the directors, and then the meeting was resumed, Harris acting as chairman of the board. Colonel Harris soon grasped the situation, and he approved of all that his directors and manager had done.
Rising to his feet, in a firm tone, he made a vigorous talk to his board: “Gentlemen, my views as to the best method of dealing with the important question before us are known to some of you. Four years ago a similar trouble perplexed our company, and our failure then to act decisively resulted in prolonging the discontent among our employees. Their purposes are as apparent to-day as then, viz., to rule or ruin our gigantic enterprise. Capital and labor should be the best of friends. Unfortunately, trusts and labor organizations are alike avaricious and selfish.